Steen McBeth and his compatriot, Jackson Li, both 28-years and New Zealand nationals, have pleaded guilty to dark web drug trafficking charges in Australia. McBeth’s charges included trafficking a commercial quantity of a drug of dependence, importing a commercial amount of a boarder-controlled drug, and trafficking a border-controlled drug.
McBeth’s partner in the crime, Li, was also charged with trafficking a commercial quantity of a border-controlled drug as well as trafficking a commercial amount of a drug of dependence. According to court documents, the two New Zealand nationals were engaged in the illegal dark web business from February 6, 2017, until their arrest in October 2017.
McBeth and Li’s arrest was a result of an undercover operation led by the Australian Federal Police, with help from the FBI, and targeted international drug trafficking on the dark web, which included cryptocurrencies. The undercover operation, which was dubbed “Operation Crozet,” fished out the two New Zealand Nationals, as drug traffickers on the dark web, using the mail system to deliver the controlled substances across Australia.
The two friends, who first met in primary school, were smuggling their illegal drugs, using children’s toys. According to Crown prosecutor Andrew Buckland, as part of “Operation Crozet,” federal agents intercepted 123 international packages filled with illegal drugs between March and September 2017.
During that same period, officers of the Australian Federal Police also seized 14 packages at various Australia mail posts, which contained illegal drugs, linked with the dark web drug trafficking network of the New Zealand Nationals. The confiscated packages were later revealed to be containing 886 grams of Ketamine, 1.8 kg of cocaine as well as 5.4 kg of MDA, which were scheduled to be distributed through 23 different Melbourne post office boxes and parcel lockers.
Additional investigation showed that the New Zealand Nationals had set up numerous post office boxes, using the information of different driver’s licenses they bought on the dark web. The AFP stated that the duo used 25 different post office boxes and parcel lockers in Melbourne for their dark web drug trafficking operation, and were all registered using 15 different names.
The undercover operation also uncovered a stash house that was used to store and package the illegal drugs before they were mailed. The Police later stated that the two-bedroom Rowell Drive, Mernda apartment, was being paid for my Li, for years. The New Zealand Nationals were seen on numerous occasions going back and forth to the apartment, carrying duffle bags and other items, such as large children’s toys.
The two drug traffickers were subsequently placed under police surveillance, and during that time, the duo was caught on many occasions visiting post offices at Bundoora and Thomastown. McBeth was also seen frequently going to a post office in Epping, as well as the Westfield Plenty Valley Shopping Centre located at Mill Park. McBeth, on August 31, 2017, purchased a ton of toys, from Target and later went to the Kmart shopping, to buy over 30 pillows and a trolley full of cushions, which were reportedly used in disguising their drugs before they sent them to the mail.
The Australian Federal Police, executed a search warrant on the residence of the two drug traffickers, in Barkers Road and Mernda. Federal officials seized a money counting machine, printed labels, with “Maurice Blackburn Lawyers,” on them, $159,000 in cash and one vehicle, a 2011 Lamborghini Gallardo. Officials also uncovered amounts of methamphetamine, MDMA, heroin, Ketamine, and butanediol, as well as testosterone and cannabis.
Crown prosecutor Andrew Buckland, during the hearing, also stated that, although most of the proceeds of the dark web illegal drug trafficking network were in cryptocurrencies, some of the money was also transferred into the Australian Dollar (AUD), which they later withdrew from different banks.
“The importation and trafficking were done online with the help of the dark web which comprises websites which exist on an encrypted network and cannot be located using normal search engines or internet browsers,” Buckland added.
The two New Zealand nationals didn’t have their citizenship, even though Li moved to the country when he was nine, whiles McBeth came to Australia when he was 21-years-old. The duo has been scheduled for sentencing on December 19, and aside from their sentences, they are also facing deportation back to New Zealand after they finish serving their terms.
Source: The Age